Inclusive language

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Inclusive language aims to avoid offense and fulfill the ideals of egalitarianism by avoiding expressions that express or imply ideas that are sexist, racist, or otherwise biased, prejudiced, or denigrating to any particular group of people (and sometimes animals as well). Use of inclusive language might be considered a form of political correctness; often the term "political correctness" is used to refer to this practice, either as a neutral description by supporters or commentators in general[1] or with negative connotations among its opponents.

Its supporters argue that language is often used to perpetuate and spread prejudice and that creating intention around using inclusive language can help create more productive, safe, and profitable organizations and societies.[2]


Rationale for suggested language change Language or expression to be avoided, according to proponents Replacement language proposed by proponents
Gender-neutral language to avoid implied sexism or heteronormativity
  • Steward/stewardess
  • Board of aldermen
  • Use of you guys to refer to a group that includes women[1]
  • Manhole
  • Manpower
  • Manned
  • Assuming "he" or "she" based on occupation or spouse's gender
  • Flight attendant
  • City council
  • Gender-neutral marked plural, such as you all
  • Maintenance hole, utility hole, or access point
  • Staffing
  • Crewed
  • Singular "they", or "he or she"
Avoid sexism in any implication women should follow "traditional" gender roles, are in any way unequal to men, are valued primarily as wives or sex objects, or that the unpaid work of women is less important than paid work
  • Girl (for an adult)
  • Miss or Mrs.
  • Housewife
  • Young woman
  • Ms. or dropping honorifics entirely
  • homemaker
Older terminology is disempowering, has negative connotations, or is subject to a euphemism treadmill with regard to
  • Race
  • Caste
  • Disability
  • Immigration status
  • Housing status
  • Health status
Avoid negative stereotypes
  • To bargain down
  • To cheat or rip off
  • A police van
Avoid racism, colonialism, and religious intolerance, whether overtly or by historical association
Avoid sizeism and body shaming "fat", "large", possibly "plus-sized model" or "plus-size clothing" in women's fashion "curvy" or simply talk about "women of all sizes"
Avoid insulting human dignity by emphasizing the humanity of individuals rather than group label
  • "He is a gay"
  • "The demented"
  • "He is a gay person"
  • "People with dementia"[4]
Avoiding implied racism or colonialism by using indigenous names instead of names used by colonizers Indian, Bombay, primitive cultures Native American (see Native American name controversy), Mumbai (see Renaming of cities in India, Geographical renaming, and British Isles naming dispute), early cultures
Avoid offending non-Christians and non-believers (see War on Christmas)
  • Wishing strangers (whose religion is unknown) "Merry Christmas"
  • School break called "Christmas Vacation"
  • Numbering years with BC/AD meaning "before Christ" and "the year of the Lord" (anno Domini)
  • "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings"
  • Schools scheduling "Winter Vacation"
  • Numbering years with BCE/CE meaning "before common era" and "common era"
Avoid implied transphobia and binary genderism Using "he" or "she" based on appearance or name Ask people what pronouns they prefer to be addressed by, or introduce yourself with your own gender pronouns (e.g. "My name is Chris and my pronouns are he/him/his.")
Taking a sex-positive position and avoiding slut-shaming Prostitute Sex worker
Avoid associations with slavery Master/slave (technology) Primary/secondary, leader/follower
Avoid association between ownership of animals and ownership of people (slavery)[5] and in general anthropocentrism Pet owner Pet guardian,[5] pet parent[6]
Avoid stigma promoting discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS Clean HIV negative

The neurodiversity movement including the autism rights movement sees various neurological conditions not as diseases to be cured, but differences to be embraced, like left-handedness or homosexuality. Proponents might object to calling autism a mental disability, and might prefer "neurotypical" to "healthy" or "normal".

Comments about personal appearance might be interpreted as lookism or sexual harassment, depending on the context.

Criticism and limitations[edit]

Some people object to the idea of being pressured into speaking and writing in a way that does not come naturally, and criticize the proposed changes as a form of socially enforced censorship that unnecessarily constrains freedom of speech.[weasel words]

Many people do not enjoy being criticized for using "offensive" language, when no offense was meant and they do not advocate the ideas which inclusivists say are implicit in the language.[1] Sometimes people use inclusive language because it is socially acceptable, despite actually holding discriminatory views, either openly or secretly.[1] Advocates hope that asking people to use inclusive language, even if they don't explicitly discriminate, encourages people to consider the concerns of the group in question more seriously than they might otherwise, and may reduce unconscious biases such as those reported by implicit-association tests.[1] Owing to the effects of euphemism treadmills, even some organizations who advocate on behalf of certain groups of people have had to change their names to avoid a term which was preferred by the group at the time of founding.[1]

The conservative worldview also emphasizes tradition, and the push for language inclusivity can be seen by conservatives as an artificial and unwelcome attempt at language change that undermines the clarity of a more familiar way of speaking. Many people opposed to illegal immigration or immigration in general prefer the term "illegal immigrants" over "undocumented immigrants" (for example in discussion of policy or economics) because it emphasizes the improperness of the method of entry.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g The Limits Of Political Correctness (panel discussion)
  2. ^ "Inclusive Language Guide: Definition & Examples". Rider University. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  3. ^ a b Seattle officials call for ban on 'potentially offensive' language
  4. ^ A Little Respect (APA style)
  5. ^ a b Opinion - Dog "Owner" vs "Guardian" - Words Matter

    The use of the word "guardian" started in the San Francisco Bay area with an organization called In Defense of Animals (IDA). The IDA was founded in 1999 by Dr. Elliot Katz, who equated animal ownership with human slavery, declaring that we don’t "own" our pets, we simply have "guardianship" of them. Dr. Katz and his compatriots in the movement claim that the word "ownership" implies a slave/slave-master relationship. He opines that slave-masters were, by definition, cruel, so calling oneself an "owner" presumes cruelty.

  6. ^ A Pet Peeve Against ‘Pet Parenting’ — Time to Push Back Against Equating Animals With Children

External links[edit]